Hebrew School Isn’t Just for Kids

Lafe Solomon, Steve Metalitz, Jim Petrick, Laura Steel, Marc Gruber, Susan Schiffer, Ginny Levin and Rita Gaylin. Leon Swerdel-Rich was traveling. Photo by Cam Crockett

As we sat enjoying our end of year pot-luck dinner on the porch of Lafe Solomon’s and Cam Crockett’s house on May 2, members of Kitah Dalet, aka The Daletniks, were trying to remember when we came together as a group of adult Hebrew learners. The best we could estimate was a little over 20 years ago when we met in the library on Thursday evenings. We were considered the “advanced” (picture air quotes) class among those offered by the temple at the time. We were blessed with Leesa Fine (z”l) as a teacher and happily trudged at least twice through The First Hebrew Primer, 3rd Edition learning enough grammar – that meant a myriad of verb tenses – and vocabulary to try to translate prayers from Mishkan Tefillah and then on to sections of the Tanakh. We translate verses for homework  by consulting several dictionaries.  As a group, we have different favorites, but we all found Genesis, B’reishit, rewarding and Ecclesiastes, Kohelet, baffling.

Before Kitah Dalet, most of us were in other Hebrew classes, some following our adult B’nei Mitzvah, wanting to continue our momentum. Some of us had attended years of Hebrew school as kids, others were fast learners without that benefit.  There has been turnover. A couple of years ago, we welcomed a new member who took Hebrew classes at college, lowering our mean age.  We now meet on Zoom for class, no longer officially a temple program, with Rabbi Marc Gruber as our teacher. In addition to Kitah Dalet, another adult Hebrew class meets on Zoom, Sunday afternoons, also translating and discussing texts. Originally known as Kitah Gimel, it is now Naan. Both classes would be happy to add new members.

At dinner, we expressed puzzlement as to why more folks at the temple have not wanted to pursue adult Hebrew to get a better feel for what we read in services. Language study is good for the brain, and learning Hebrew with friends is good for the soul.


– Ginny Levin